Sister Act review: HAODS, The Capitol, Horsham, November 11, 2021
It’s great to be back at The Capitol in Horsham watching HAODS perform on the main stage once again.
The Covid pandemic has caused a ton of disruption for live entertainment over the past 19 months with countless shows either being cancelled or postponed.
One of these was Sister Act by Horsham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, which was originally scheduled for May 2020, but just kept getting pushed back and back.
It is a joy to finally see it after such a stressful and grinding time for everyone.
But there was always a risk that the sense of relief could unfairly influence my opinion of the show’s quality.
However, I can confidently say that on its own merits Sister Act stands as one of HAODS’ best productions of the past decade.
The colourful costumes are dazzling, the dance routines are tight and high energy, and above all the singing is absolutely fantastic.
Claude Hopkins really shines as the sassy lead Deloris Van Cartier using her powerful and soul-stirring voice to lift those Alan Menken and Glenn Slater numbers to heavenly heights.
Her comic timing is on point too and often gets huge laughs from the enthusiastic audience.
It’s a marvel she can cavort around stage in the way she does and still hit every note perfectly.
She is well supported in both singing and acting by the mostly female cast, but especially by the excellent Charlotte Mitchell as Sister Mary Robert.
Initially shy, nervous and unwilling to speak up, it’s a great moment when the character finally cuts loose and Charlotte gets to show off her stunning vocal skills too.
After ‘Raise Your Voice’, the second to last song of Act One, the applause is so loud it feels like HAODS could end the show there and still leave everyone blown away.
Thankfully though there’s entire second act still to come.
The plot, for those who haven’t seen the movie or musical yet, is about a nightclub singer (Deloris) who accidently witnesses the murder of a police informant by her callous boyfriend and gangster Curtis Jackson.
Deloris escapes to a police station where the desk chief Eddie decides to hide her in a nun’s convent until she can testify in court against Curtis.
Naturally, Deloris has no desire to live even a temporary life of self-denial and clashes with the Mother Superior, despising her dull hideout until she realises the nuns need some help with their singing lessons...
As you’d expect, much of the show’s comedy comes from the ’fish out water’ scenario with the materialistic, streetwise and fun-loving Deloris interacting with the spiritual, restrained and sheltered world of the nuns.
HAODS regular Lisa Falkner handles the singing beautifully as Mother Superior.
Her voice doesn’t have the same strength and impact that Claude and Charlotte’s have, but Lisa sings in an appropriately clear and disciplined way that emphasises her character’s strict and straightlaced manner.
She also performs her lines, both musical and non-musical, with a kind of wry, borderline sarcastic humour that suggests that this nun isn’t entirely about virtue and unconditional love.
The other nuns get to be more overtly funny with Lizzie Alderton giving a stand-out performance as Sister Mary Patrick.
She portrays the character as a rather naive and excitable woman of faith who is not immune to the sensual joys of rock music and good food.
Yvonne Chadwell is memorable too as Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours, a longstanding member of the convent who spends most of the show off in her own wacky world.
Sue van der Bourgh gets laughs as the oldest and grumpiest nun Sister Mary Theresa, while Amy Wilkinson gets to rap as Sister Mary Lazarus in one of the show’s sillier moments.
Speaking of silly, there’s not really much of a threat from the main villain’s dim-witted henchmen – Pablo (Chris Dale), TJ (Cameron Rowell) and Joey (Billy Humphreys).
They’re mainly there for broad comedy, camp slapstick and idiotic one liners, and the trio have a fun, manic energy that lifts the more exposition-heavy moments.
The number ‘Lady in the Long Black Dress’ gets gales of laughter (and some ironic wolf whistles) when the guys sing and gyrate about their seduction techniques.
Chris Dale is particularly impressive, having seemingly learned most of his lines in Spanish with a pretty credible accent.
There are more dramatic moments though, especially with the actual villain of the piece, Curtis.
Dominic Batchelor plays him mostly as a straight-forward, hissable bad guy that we love to hate.
But he also subtly hints at some hidden darkness in the opening scene before Curtis reveals his true colours to Deloris.
This is lightened, of course, by his singing of ‘When I Find My Baby’, which, despite its sadistic lyrics, is a rather light and bouncy number.
All the main and supporting cast members give it their all, but special mention has to go to Michael Boucher as Eddie.
He presents the police officer as the kind of socially awkward but endearing nerd that we’d all like to see win in the end.
His big number ‘I Could Be That Guy’ is a real treat, as Eddie escapes into his own glitzy fantasy world, complete with top notch singing and instantaneous costume changes.
Overall, Sister Act is five-star entertainment from HAODS and a thrilling return from a society that has been kept away from the stage for too long.
Stacey James’ direction is stylish, colourful and clever, making the most of the space on stage and getting the most from the performers.
The complex songs, which involve a lot of interweaving lyrics and melodies, flow beautifully thanks to the whole cast and live musicians under the direction of Neil Franks.
This is all combined with some wonderful choreography by Rachel Dale, which stays synchronised but never feels rigid.
Welcome back HAODS.
Sister Act is on until Saturday (November 13). Visit www.thecapitolhorsham.com for tickets.